Bishops' pledge on women priests

THE CHURCH of England yesterday agreed a plan aimed at appeasing opponents of women priests and avoiding a schism within the Church.

A meeting of the Church's House of Bishops decided with only one abstention on an Act of Synod - which is morally, but not legally binding - to affirm the principle that opponents of women priests may still be ordained and promoted.

The only abstention came from the Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Rev John Baker, who felt that the accomodations to opponents of women priests went too far in the direction of setting up a 'church within a church'.

The cause of Bishop Baker's discomfort was that the meeting confirmed proposals put forward earlier by the bishops for 'flying bishops', opposed to women priests, who would operate in dioceses where the bishop was, like Bishop Baker, in favour. These would be balanced, in dioceses where the bishop was opposed to women priests, by pro-women bishops who would ordain women on behalf of the Archbishop of the province

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, told a press conference at the Manchester Business School that the proposals would be set out in a series of documents. He said: 'What we express as a church is living diversity. What we are talking about here is recognising that diversity. We are not envisaging a church within a church. We are recognising arrangements that we can live with.'

He said that the proposals would go before the General Synod in two weeks' time.

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